Senate Democrats offer bill to phase out older rail tank cars

Legislation to accelerate the phase-out of older rail tank cars to reduce accidental crude oil spills has been introduced by Finance Committee Ranking Minority Member Ronald L. Wyden (D-Ore.) and six other US Senate Democrats.

The bill, S. 1175, also would impose a fee of $175/shipment on older tank cars and would make a tax credit available to railroads that upgrade newer cars to the highest required safety standard.

“It’s time for the [US] Department of Transportation to push faster and more aggressively to make oil-by-rail transportation safer,” Wyden said on Apr. 30. “This legislation takes a market-based approach to get unsafe cars off the tracks and safer cars on the tracks more quickly.”

The bill also would use the revenue raised by the fee to help communities and first responders be better prepared in the event of a rail accident. It would establish a dedicated fund for clean-up costs of oil train accidents, advanced training for first responders, and grant money for states and cities to move train tracks carrying large volumes of hazardous materials away from highly populated areas.

It also would require DOT to implement National Transportation Safety Board recommendations to give first responders real-time rail transportation information, update track maintenance standards, and study first responder preparedness for rail accidents involving large amounts of flammable liquids.

The bill was cosponsored by Democrats Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert P. Casey Jr. (Pa.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Charles E. Schumer (NY), and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). It was introduced as DOT prepared to announce final rules for the safe transportation of crude and other hazardous materials by rail a day later.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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